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Disney back in comic biz

Recent resurgence causes publishing arm to recommit

As Marvel Enterprises focuses more on enterprises than on comics — only 21% of its $229 million in revenue last year came from publishing comicbooks — the Walt Disney Co. is paying more attention to print cartoons.

This week Disney Publishing Worldwide, in partnership with Gemstone Publishing, is relaunching a monthly and bimonthly line of comicbook favorites — Mickey, Donald, Goofy, et al. — that have been dormant for six years. Original titles will be released in six to eight months.

The launch is triggered by a resurgence in the comicbook industry, which has seen a boon in recent years in part due to the success of Marvel-inspired pics like “The Hulk” and the “Spider-man” and “X-Men” films — and their equally blockbuster licensing deals.

Unlike Marvel, which needed to expand in order to work its way out of the bankruptcy it was facing five years ago, Disney is in less desperate straits, and would not commit to eyeing comic-to-film projects at this point.

“As a company, we’re looking at what would be next after our success in publishing,” said Deborah Dugan, Disney Publishing prexy. “Very often franchise stories start in publishing, but we’re first trying to crack the distribution code. Then we’ll see what’s very successful.”

Mouse House’s publishing arm has generated $30 million in revenue for the first half of 2003, up 12% from the same period in 2002.

No details were given about forthcoming toons, or how they’d look in capes and tights.